Apr 262014

Picadas of Lamb around the fire

2014 Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit: A Celebration of the Favors of Argentina

At Perini Ranch in Buffalo Gap, it was an experience of primary colors. The foundation was of dusty red west Texas soil. Immediately overhead was a silky sea of lime green mesquite leaves cast against the azure blue sky. All around was pungent white smoke that arose from the culinary seven fires of Argentine Chef Francis Mallmann. The question in my mind as I entered the grounds was, would it be as I experienced in Argentina in past years. Well, it was that, and more!

The fires were started at 7 am to slow cook lamb splayed on classic picadas. Grass fed beef ribeyes were roasting on metal grates. Vegetables were buried to cook underground, and chickens tucked into balls hanging on hooks. Walking among the seven fires was a pre-dinner treat while sipping on Argentine Torrontes or Texas Merlot as nothing would be served until 7 pm. Tom Perini from Buffalo Gap’s Perini Steakhouse  and Chef Mallmann worked in the pit stopping for an occasional rest and chat, perhaps to share cowboy and gaucho cooking tips.


Buffalo Gap’s Tom Perini and Argentina’s Chef Mallmann overseeing the pit.

This year’s Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit was a 10th anniversary affair billed as “a taste of Argentina in Texas”. It brought the meat-based cuisine and wines of Argentina together with wines from Argentina, Texas and California. The dinner on Friday evening was everything we had watched earlier that day served in four family style courses along side 16 wines. Featured Texas wines included:

With Argentina as the feature of this year’s Summit, there were several wines presented made from the signature grape of that country, Malbec; featuring Argentina’s Don Miguel Gascon Malbec Reserva, Ramian Estate Malbec (Napa), Truchard Vineyards Malbec (Carneros Napa), and Meeker Vineyards (Sonoma County) Malbec.


Friday Dinner Gathering at the Buffalo Gap Wine and Food Summit with Chef Mallmann speaking.

Malbec is an intensely purple grape used in making red wine with an Argentine style with an inky dark color and robust flavor of blackberries.  This grape originated in the area of Cahors in South West France. However, it is increasingly distinguished as an Argentine varietal wine with it distinctive style. One of the interesting similarities discussed is that between the Argentine Mendoza wine growing region and that of the Texas High Plains around Lubbock. Both regions are high altitude arid areas backed by evening higher mountains. Whereas the Mendoza averages around 2400 ft in elevation, the Texas High Plains starts at about 3200 feet and goes up to 4000 ft. Both share intense sunny dry conditions.


A sip of Alamos Torrontes under the shade of a Live Oak tree at Buffalo Gap.

 Posted by at 4:52 pm
Apr 232014

Live Viognier Buds on High Plains Cane Pruned Viognier After the Recent Freeze

Texas High Plains Report: It’s Alive! It’s Alive!

I just received a photo from a certain (and notable) viticulturist on the high plains. Like many that reside near him, he didn’t hold out much hope for the naked and infantile buds on the vines in his area after last week’s freeze. This sad prognosis was particularly true for the early budding and Texas popular white grape varieties like Viognier. Click here for more.

But, as you can see in the picture above, the tender gray-green of life still exists at multiple points on a cane of Texas high plains Viognier.

As you may have seen commented during the past week on Facebook or the Yahoo Groups Texas Winegrowers, many high plains grape growers used a variety and often multiple approaches to mitigate the spring freeze. Some used newly installed wind turbines while others burned hay, cotton and what other surplus materials they had at hand. Some made fires while also moving air around over their vineyards with helicopters flying aloft.

Another perhaps more subtle but apparently still effective approach is the one shown in the photo. It’s called Cane pruning. This is hardly a new and innovative approach to vineyard management, but one commonly used in cooler climate and higher latitude winegrowing like in Burgundy. It might seem a bit contra-intuitive. After all Texas IS a warm growing, low latitude wine growing region, right? In such areas, a common vine pruning technique is spur pruning. If you go to southern Rhone Valley in France or in many places in California you will usually see spur pruned grapevines. What’s up?

Well, in spur pruning you look at the new, one-year-old wood growing from the spurs (spurs are long canes that are pruned to the size of short twigs) of a cordon (or arms of the vine extending from the trunk). What you usually want are two to four buds on each spur. This is achieved by pruning off everything else. As the new growth progresses from these spurs, it will be trained by attaching it to a trellis wires. In this method, you basically have only a few shots at viable bud growth. But, the good part of it is that it focuses the vine’s energy to producing as much fruit as it can from these few shoots.

Cane pruning involves cutting back nearly all of the last year’s growth. To cane prune a grapevine, normally two well-formed canes growing out of the head of the vine are spared. These canes are tied to the trellis wire. These remaining canes provide many more possibilities for viable growth than usually available from spur pruning. This is why it is often used in colder regions that have late freezes and unfavorable spring weather that can adversely affect the buds. On the downside, it is more manual labor intensive than spur pruning and it can limit the maximum production capacity of the vine than with spur pruning.

I’m far from an expert on grapevine pruning, but from the continuous issues caused in Texas from spring freezes and from the initial results, cane pruning may be another new arrow in the Texas winegrowers quiver to shoot at our springtime weather problems that greatly limit Texas grape and wine production.

 Posted by at 9:36 pm
Apr 222014


Join the Fun at Bending Branch Winery Kentucky Derby Extravaganza

Bob Young, John Rivenburgh and Jennifer Beckmann and the whole crew at Bending Branch Winery invite you to join them and other Texas wine aficionados at their 4th Annual Kentucky Derby Extravaganza on May 3rd. 11 am to 6 pm.  This event has grown in popularity year after year and you will have a ball.

It is big field of twenty-six contenders for this year’s Kentucky Derby. Actually, there are too many to follow closely and no bet will be a sure thing. So, rather than losing your money betting on the horses, come on out to Bending Branch Winery in Comfort, Texas. You can celebrate the day of America’s favorite horse race sipping some Picpoul Blanc or other fine Bending Branch wines.

Bending Branch has certainly raised eyebrows all around the state with the stunning award to their Estate Tannat wine as the best Texas wine in this year’s Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition.

The Bending Branch Kentucky Derby Extravaganza is free to attend and will feature Traditional Hot Brown Sandwiches, Picpoul Blanc Mint Juleps and Award Winning Wines for purchase.  Live Jazz will be performed from 1-5pm.


There will also be a horseshoe tournament held through the afternoon. There will also be local milliners featuring their creations for sale, and we will be unveiling limited edition Derby posters signed and numbered by Keely Corona Smith.  Sponsoring the event this year is San Antonio Magazine, who will also be judging the Parade of Hats & Hat Competition!

Bending Branch Winery, 142 Lindner Branch Trail, Comfort, TX 78013 830-995-2948; for directions, click here.


 Posted by at 7:05 pm
Apr 212014

Who will sow the seeds of change in Texas wine country?

What Are Texas Grape Growers and Winemakers Doing to Build a “Real” Texas Wine Industry?

Or, Who will be the Robert Mondavi of Texas?

It’s been a tough week as a result of the spring freeze that’s hit the high plains and the western and northern parts of the hill country. However, sometimes when it seems darkest, a ray of light appears bringing hope for a better time. Better yet, there is a major meeting of Texas grape growers and winemakers at Newsom Grape Day  on May 9th in longtime grape grower Neal Newsom’s barn in Plains, Texas. They will be talking about how the Tempranillo growing regions in Spain compare to those in Texas. Hopefully, there will be side discussions. This blog is to provide some suggestions to attendees on topics that I feel are critical for Texas’s rise as a new and major wine producing region.Who is going to step up and what steps will be taken?

Last weekend, I finally had some time to “tool around” along the Route 290 wine trail, meeting up with some old friends and visit with some new friends at wineries along the way. While the prognosis from the high plains that feeds many of the hill country wineries with grapes to fill out their harvest needs, many have made decisions or are making decisions on how to better make their wineries viable year-in-and-out and generally more sustainable as mainstream business ventures.

I’ve made a list of what I’ve heard from various sources. In most cases, I’ve chosen not to provide quotes since some did not want their names or opinions known particularly since they were still working on their paths forward after last week’s sever freeze. Check them out below…

#1 – Portfolio Management Applied to Wine Grapes

For the hill country wineries this boils down to finding alternative sources of Texas grapes to replace those lost on the high plains from the recent freeze (this year and last, and maybe next year, too). For the second year now, vineyards in central and northeast Texas appear to have fared somewhat better and have grapes to offer. Gulf coast and east Texas growers have grapes to offer, as well, particularly the popular hybrid, Blanc Du Bois. This essentially means applying a wine country equivalent to what financial advisers recommend to do with your retirement money – Share the risk through diversification. Some gamblers hedge bets to accomplish effectively the same thing, too. For wineries, it means contracting more grapes and from different places all around the state. Then, if one place has a freeze or hail, or if a hurricane comes ripping up the middle of the state, they still have only lost a portion of their total grape harvest.

#2 – A Need for More Tank Space

In accomplishing #1 above, this might also mean that wineries need to “over contract” for grapes than what they actually need. This carries a risk, too. In the event of the good harvest year, wineries may have to take more grapes than they can currently handle. Therefore, like in previous good harvest years of 2010 and 2012, tank space at wineries was at a premium and some perfectly good Texas grapes didn’t find a home. What a waste! A winery that has extra tank space or that has relationships with other operations where wine can be properly stored, can set themselves up for a long stable run of wine that can help them offer wine to customers (and other wineries) during the lean years.

#3 – More Wineries Should Offer Multi-varietal Blends Rather than Single Varietal Wines

Some Texas wineries were burned badly in 2013 by not being able to obtain enough of certain grape varieties (and resultant wine) that their customers have grown to expect. Viognier is a prime example. It has become widely recognized as a prime Texas grape variety, but it buds early and is very susceptible to late spring freezes. However, some wineries are learning how to better manage this situation by offering blends of 2, 3 or more grape varieties under a proprietary name. For example, Hilmy Cellars offers a mystery red blend called “Politics & Religion”. Pedernales Cellars has their white blend Vino Blanco and its very interesting new white five-blend Cinco to take up the slack of not having much their famed Viognier. These are only two of many examples.  Proprietary blends can provide a reliable year-to-year presence on the tasting room or wine market shelf, but the blend can vary yearly depending on the availability and amount of grapes harvested.


Who will be able to lead the herd to market?

#4 – More Emphasis on Multi-vintage Blends, Too!

This past weekend, I finally heard winemakers talking about making wines made from grapes harvested over more than one harvest. The hesitancy of going this route is mainly from distributors and some snobby sommeliers that fear they can’t sell them. However, in the tasting room, both multi-vintage and multi-varietal blend offer a taste of what Texas is – variable, and a market opportunity. It has this fact-of-life in common with most of European winemaking countries. This is why Champagne is known and accepted as a multi-varietal and often multi-vintage wine. The main difference between the Champagne wine region and Texas is that Champagne has learned to accept this tough fact of life and has also learned to use it to their advantage in the marketplace. Why can’t Texas do it, too?

#5 – Non-Texas Wine and Regional Wine Needs to be Part of the Plan

As a minimum, Texas wine (and wine of any other state too) by federal law needs to contain at least 75%  grapes grown within the state.  Anything less than that can’t be called Texas wine.  One way to handle this is to run and hide under the guise of “For Sale in Texas Only”. This sounds like a special product made in Texas especially for Texans, but it’s not. It is way to legally sell out of state wine to Texans without divulging the source or appellation of origin of the grapes.Hopefully, this approach is finally waning.

There now appears to be a new wave of acceptance of wines from Texas wineries where the sources of the grapes is not Texas, but where the source states or appellations are correctly indicated on the label. In this regard, this past weekend, in addition to Texas wines, I saw and tasted wines from New Mexico, Washington, and California. One more legal alternative is to show a co-appellation which can be done in the case where two regions are contiguous (e.g. Texas and New Mexico). This is one method of getting a critical mass of grapes in a bottle wine that can be marketed as a true regional wine. New Mexico works well for us since both Texas and New Mexico grow excellent quality Italian grape varieties (e.g. Dolcetto and Aglianico and maybe even Nero d’Avola).

Texas needs wine in its sails and in its vineyards, too!

Texas needs wind in its sails and apparently in its vineyards, too! Photo credit: www.texaswineandtrail.com

#6 – Use Technology & Varietal Selection to Your Advantage

As far as I know, this is the first year where wind machines (those big propeller devices to move air in the vineyard) have been used in vineyards in the hill country and on the high plains. The verdict in both cases (so I hear) were resounding positives. Grapevines that were protected by such devices fared much better than those left to brave the elements on their own. Other Texas vineyards have tried other technologies such as chemical sprays or overhead sprinkler to delay the onset of bud break past the last freeze. The results of these experiments, while positive, appear less successful, but they are getting people thinking about how to beat spring freezes. Another approach in this regard is selecting grape varieties that naturally bud later. Examples are white grapes like Roussanne, Vermentino, and Trebbiano, and reds like Mourvedre and Carignan. This approach perhaps is the ultimate solution if it can buy us another two to three weeks until bud break. Or perhaps, there is another technology yet proven that can be brought to aid Texas grape grower.

I remind everyone that will listen to me of the story about the grape growers on the Normandy coast around Nantes where the Loire River flows into the Atlantic. They have chosen to grow primarily a grape called Melon de Bourgogne and it is the basis for their local wine industry. Why? Well, it was the only grape that remained harvestable during the period of years from the early 1800s called “The Mini-Ice Age”. They learned that it is very hard to fight Mother Nature, and it is important to make adjustments that accommodate the land and climate that they had.

Remember: Texas isn’t Bordeaux and sure as hell ain’t Burgundy. I know, I know, you have heard that before from me. We need to stop expecting Texas to be something else and stop apologizing about the fact that it’s not. As a matter of fact, it isn’t Napa Valley either or like anywhere else.


Who will emerge as the much needed Robert Mondavi of Texas’s Wine Future?

We need to be looking for ways that will allow Texas wine country to reach its full potential, or borrow old world techniques, or adapt new technologies that can be combined for the same purpose. Texas IS a warm growing region that most of the time as to contend with the “HARD STOP” of the late freezes. Late freeze is currently the single biggest challenge that greatly limits Texas grape and wine production.

Finally, we must keep in mind that most wine growing regions evolved naturally over hundreds, if not thousands of years. Texans need to support their native grape growing and wine industries. Additionally, grape growers and winemakers need to think long and hard (and as creatively as possible) to reach the point where it be commercially viable and economically sustainable year-in-and-out in a truly global marketplace. It looks to me that we may finally have the people in place that can move this initiative forward. Many now in the industry are young and motivated with the opportunity of having 30 or more vintages in front of them to make an impact.

 Posted by at 3:12 pm
Apr 192014

Dirk’s Vodka – Going Against the Grain

Dirk’s Vodka: The Spirit of Texas and Kiepersol – Going Against the Grain

When I’ve had too many harvested Meyer lemons, I’ve made juice (frozen in cubes for later use). When I’ve had too many farm eggs, I’ve made frittata. But, what did Kiepersol Estate winemaker Marnelle Durrett and her father Pierre de Wet do last year when they ended up harvesting more grapes from their estate vineyard near Tyler than they could handle? For the first time, they sold grapes to other Texas winemakers who were in the midst of the 2013 all-time bad grape shortage suffered at the hands of a series of late spring freezes. That offering was much appreciated, I’m sure.

Secondly, they took some of the remaining overage and made more wine than they could use. Then, Pierre went to work designing and building four custom stills with which Jim Durrett distilled what is the first domestic (and Texas) grape-based vodka. If you’ve had Ciroc from France, you’ve tasted the only other vodka of this kind in the world.

On a recent warm east Texas evening, Marnelle, Jim and Pierre hosted friends, winery VIPs and media to the opening of their new Kiepersol wine tasting room and a short walkway away to the distillery for an advance taste of the new product called Dirk’s Vodka.

As you may know, Vodka is a distillate containing ethanol and residual (or added) water usually made from fermented grains or potatoes, though it can be made from other starting materials (e.g. grapes or wine). East Texas has a long history and storied past making distilled beverages behind barns and tucked in cedar breaks often referred to as “moonshine”. Well, with the release of Dirk’s Vodka to the public this past Tuesday, the tradition of east Texas distillation took a big leap forward.


Master Distiller Jim Durrett with his custom stills

The evening was complete with a peek at the modern distilling operation set in the back of what used to be the old Kiepersol tasting room. I can’t image what was involved to de-bond a winery building and re-bond it as a distillery. It sounds like an administrative and paperwork nightmare involving local, state and federal agencies. But, they were successful whatever it took. This is something that characterizes the collective “spirits” of the operations principals.

Upon entering the distillery, the residual heat of the stills was evident in the room as master distiller, Jim Durrett stood front and center and explained the process. After which, he pointed to overhead pipes that lead through the wall. On the other side was a large covered stainless steel tank.

As Jim lifted the large metal lid, the heady, alcoholic vapors permeated into my sinuses while the dipping sound of the pure unadulterated distilled alcohol echoed reminiscently like spring water in a deep cave. Jim also revealed his other works in progress that included rum (made from molasses) and corn-based whiskey both of which were quietly resting in oak barrels gaining age and flavor. A tasting of a few milliliters of each showed promise of other new products that will hopefully follow Dirk’s Vodka to market. My key tasting descriptors for Dirk’s Vodka were crispness, citrus-like tang, and minerally finish.

The night was complete with food and tastings of Dirk’s Vodka, neat and smooth, and blended in cocktails. Meanwhile, the sunset casted long shadows in the adjoining vineyard while toasts were made to the expanding realm of the Kiepersol Estate. Dirk’s vodka is currently available (two bottles per person over 21 years old per month) only at the distillery at 4120 FM 344 E, Tyler, TX 75703; tele: (903) 894-8995.


Vineyard in the expanding realm of Kiepersol Estate

 Posted by at 11:26 am
Apr 162014


2014 Lone Star International Wine Competition Entry Deadline is Coming

Deadline is May 23, 2014 to Feature Your Wines in a Premier Wine Competition for All Winemakers in the 2014 Lone Star International Wine Competition

Don’t miss the deadline for getting your wines into the 2014 Lone Star International Wine Competition (May 23, 2014).  This year marks the 31st anniversary of the competition which is three competitions in one – a Texas competition, an International competition, and a Limited Production competition. The judging will be held in Grapevine, Texas on June 2-3, 2014.

Experienced judges from will select the award-winning wines that span over eight divisions.  Returning in 2014 is a Wine Bottle Label competition, judged by local world-class artists and photographers.  Wine, Wine Bottle Labels, and/or both can be entered into the competition.  Ship your wines now while the weather is still cool.

Winners will receive a gold, silver, or bronze medal.  Winning wines are also recognized in the Best of Show and Best in Varietal categories.

More information can be found at www.txwines.org or contact Debbie Reynolds, Executive Director, Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association at: debbie@twgga.org

Download 2014 Entry Form

Download 2014 Rules

 Posted by at 10:36 am
Apr 152014


Texas Wine Country 2014: Some Dodged the Bullet, Some Not

Most people in Texas would agree that Texas is a hot sunny place most of the time. They would also likely agree with the idea that Texas winegrowing has more in common with similarly sunny places like Spain, south of France and Italy than with the cool clime of Burgundy. However, in my opinion, something that we don’t emphasize enough when talking about Texas as a winegrowing region is the “hard stop” caused by the persistent late spring freezes that limits our native wine industry.

Last night was a good example of one such hard stop. Thankfully, it wasn’t a complete train wreck like Texas wine growers experienced last year, probably the worst string of late spring freezes in the modern records. But, last night’s freeze it still hurt, some more than others.

For winegrowers on the high plains around Lubbock, reported temperatures were well below 32 F. A report came in that the “vast majority of buds are tight” and freeze tolerant. However, temperatures were variant and for some early-budding grape varieties and vineyard in low lying areas, “this one’s going to hurt”. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:50 am
Apr 102014


What a Difference Four Years Made for Texas Wine – 1910 to 1914

While doing background research for my new book, Texas Hill Country Wineries, for Arcadia Publications, I came across two newspaper advertisements from the early 1900s. The first (shown above) is for a the Lone Star Saloon in Castroville, Texas, that offers “Wines, Liquors, Beers, Cigars, Smoking and Chewing Tobacco. Liquors of all kinds and prices, in Flasks, Quarts and Gallons for family use.”  I assume family use means not for resale.

The second advertisement from 1914 is for the Broadway Bar as found in the Cameron Herald. This was just four years later and 6 years before National Prohibition was imposed. Nationwide prohibition did not begin in the United States until 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect.

In advance of America’s National Prohibition, the Texas state legislature (then in the “forefront” of the temperance movement) granted communities and/or countries the “local option” that allowed them to elect to “go dry” thus banning the manufacture, transportation, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages in various defined territories within Texas. Notice the fine print on this advertisement that says, “No orders solicited from prohibition territory.”

National Prohibition was repealed in 1933, with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment. However, this action by the federal government just handed the question of prohibition back to the states to decide. In Texas, the decision went back to the “local option” that allows prohibition to persists in some form or another around the state today.

Many people from other states often ask me “If Texas is such a good wine producing state, why is it so far behind other major wine producing states in America?” The longstanding run of prohibition in Texas (much longer than in most other states and still today in affect in some jurisdictions in Texas) is one of several things that delayed the development of wineries in Texas.

In 2001, a Texas state constitutional amendment gave Texas wineries the unique ability to make and sell wine anywhere (in wet, dry or damp areas in the state) as long as they maintain the use of 75% Texas grapes. This was a watershed moment for local wine in Texas and since then is when the number of Texas wineries started a rapid increase all around the state of Texas.

 Posted by at 2:47 pm
Apr 092014

Sedàra Silicia DOC Rosso by Donnafugata

Join the Whole Foods Market Twitter Tasting: Spring is the Time for Italian Food & Wine

There is no better time than Spring to treat your taste buds to a trip across Italy. The air is clear and fresh, and the heat and humidity of summer have not yet arrived, what better time to cook. So, stop at Whole Foods Market, and pick your wine and food selections during their Wines from Italy spring feature. Then, get in the kitchen, pop a cork, pour a glass, and light up the burners.

In fact, why not join other Italian vino-enthusiasts (21 and older) for a Twitter tasting live tomorrow (April 10th 7-8 pm CT) at Whole Foods Market Stores (consult your local store for participation). Or, even better, while your sipping and cooking, join the action through the “Twitterverse” with others by following the hashtag #WFMwine. You can do this live and/or add you comments through TweetChat by logging in with your Twitter name then adding #WFMwine in the space indicated for the hastag to follow (click here). You can also post comments about your experiences by joining the Facebook group “Anything But Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot” (click here), an international group of wine lovers dedicated to seeking out any wines but the usual suspects.

HRB Twitter Italian Wines

Italian wines are some of the most food friendly wines available. Native Italian grapes are not your standard set of Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (although you can find them in Italy, too). They come by names of the grapes such as Pinot Grigio and Prosecco. However, they sometimes are labeled under their places of origin like Sangiovese from the Chianti region or Nero d’Alova from Sicily.

Why are Italian wines so food friendly? Well, they come with a natural acidity and are usually made in a medium bodied style with lighter use of oak that matches well with food, particularly if it is grilled or accompanied with a hearty tomato, cream or butter sauce.

My two selections from the Whole Foods Market Italian wine selections for Spring were one white wine and one red wine from their Spring Italian wine selections.


Principessa de Gavia DOC

For starters, I opened a bottle of Banfi Principessa de Gavia DOC (Dallas Wine Competition 2014 Silver medal winner)  100% Cortese, a white Italian wine grape variety predominantly grown in the southeastern regions of the Italian Piedmont. The wine was rich in tropical aromas balanced with tart apple and citrus followed with a tangy yet substantial feel on the palate. This combination of tasting elements yields a wine with extremely broad wine pairing capabilities. It is light enough to handle delicate fish dishes and yet strong enough to handle more substantive and flavorful dishes, especially with sharp tomato sauces and cheeses. My food pairing was with a mixed plate with hard sheep milk cheese with rice crackers, grilled chicken in tomato sauce and fig-Gorgonzola cheese.

My second pairing was with the Sedàra Silicia DOC Rosso by Donnafugata (pictured at top), a wine with an effortless tannic structure, dominant red fruit in the aroma and on the palate with underlaid hints of baking spices and mineral character. It is a blend of mostly Nero d’Avola, supported with Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and small amounts of other grapes. My food pairing with this wine was a simple plate of brown rice pasta with a sauce of tomato paste, olive oil and garlic, served with steamed asparagus with tarragon butter sauce. The versatility of this red wine goes with its ability not to fight with the asparagus, known to create “palate wars” with strongly tannic red wines. The clean bright red fruit in the Sedàra ameliorated and tamed the asparagus bringing the two disparate components of the dish together into harmony.

Lettie Teague, wine writer for the Wall Street Journal, credits the food pairing ability of Italian wines to a few important factors (click here for more details):

  • Italians, in their culture, naturally associate wine and food together (this is a good example of the pairing concept – wines and foods that grow together, go together).
  • Natural high acidity of Italian wines: Acidity lends a wine liveliness to the meal by keeping your palate fresh and ready for the next bite.
  • Commonly Italian winemakers are unlikely to use a lot of new oak (there are some exceptions), but as a rule, wines with lighter oaking allow the fresh fruity characteristics in the wine meld with the flavors from the food.

— — — — —

VT Note: Enjoy this Whole Foods Market Twitter Tasting and their Italian wines. But, also remember that wine from Italian grape varieties are appearing in wines from Texas wineries from grapes grown in Texas vineyards. They are a good match for our hot and sunny clime. Check out the soon to be released 4.0 Cellars Nero d’Avola 2012 Comanche County, Texas, at their tasting room near Fredericksburg, Texas (click here). See below:


 Posted by at 1:08 pm
Apr 062014


Rios de Chile: Carmenère, the Grape Lost, Found and Doing Very Well in Chile

Carmenère, a member of the Bordeaux family of red grapes,gets its name from the French word “carmin” referring either to the red highlights in the wine or the crimson color of its post-harvest foliage. Carmenère was originally found in Bordeaux vineyards prior to the Phylloxera infestation of the 1800s. However, it was not part of the vineyard mix in the Medoc when these vineyards were replanted post-Phylloxera. This situation was likely because of the difficulty Carmenère has in ripening in the cool, wet Medoc weather. At one point, Carmenère was thought to be the lost grape variety of Bordeaux.

However, Carmenère came to Chile over 150 years ago as vine stock that sent from Bordeaux. At some point, it was misidentified and thought to be Merlot. It was not until the 1990s and the advent of DNA testing that these grapes in Chile were positively identified as Carmenère.

Carmenère is now far from extinct, and doing very well in Chile. In recent years, it has become the most widely recognized wine grape variety and now hallmark grape from Chile. It has been found, identified and is doing very well there.

Notes from a recent tasting of two Carmenère wines (one Carmenère and the other Reserva Carmenère) from Rios de Chile winemaker Alfonso Duarte are presented below:

2011 Rios de Chile Carmenère (D.O. Central Valley) —  This Carmenère has a red purple color with intense, raw young black fruit on the nose with green herbal notes following. Medium extraction and skin tannin bring with them the essence of crushed blackberry that governs this wine on the palate balanced with crisp (not overripe) acidity. These qualities bring value to this very affordable wine (<$10) for those that enjoy fresh, fruit-dominated red wines.

2009 Rios de Chile Reserva Carmenère (D.O. Cachapoal Valley) — This Reserva Carmenère shows a red-black color. Intense black fruit (blackberry and plum) merge enjoyably on the nose and palate with the addition of vanilla, mushroom, tannin and a hint of cinnamon spice on the finish obtained from limited duration oak aging adds complexity over its non-Reserva sibling wine. There is only a slight price escalation to this Reserva (about $14) but the gain is in its density and intricacy of aromas and palate characteristics.

Following the tasting, these two Carmenère wines were paired with Chicken Florentine Albondigas (meat balls) served with Japanese “sticky” rice and braised kale in tomato broth with matchstick carrots and shitake mushrooms.

A range of varietal Chilean wines are available under the Rios de Chile label from the Pacific Wine Group. Samples were provided for this tasting.

— — — — —

Samples Policy: VintageTexas accepts wine samples for review with the understanding there are no preconditions about what is written. Wineries, distributors or importers that want to send samples should email me for information.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
 Posted by at 6:44 pm